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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (July 5, 2002 – The Marshall Islands Journal)---Is the Marshall Islands asking for enough money from the United States in the next Compact?

Kwajalein Negotiation Commission chairman Senator Chris Loeak says the answer is definitely "no" and that neither the U.S. nor the RMI government’s Compact funding plan will satisfy Kwajalein landowners.

And efforts to forge a partnership between the RMI and KNC appear to be on the ropes following meetings between both in Washington late last month. Loeak returned from meetings in the U.S. capital questioning the government’s commitment to working with the Kwajalein landowners.

"The idea the RMI has about ‘collaboration’ is for us to accept their offer to the U.S.," Loeak told the Journal on Tuesday.

But executive director for Compact negotiations Bobby Muller told the Journal Wednesday that he is hopeful that the RMI and KNC can produce a joint response to the U.S. proposal for extending use of Kwajalein Atoll to 2043.

Loeak said that the U.S. proposal is "unacceptable" because it will "just perpetuate the inadequacies and unfairness of the current lease."

Muller said that the RMI government "is not accepting the U.S. proposal. We haven’t responded to the U.S. because we want to work with the Kwajalein landowners on discussion of any extension of the Military Use and Operating Rights Agreement beyond the current term of the agreement."

An exchange of letters while the landowners and Muller and Foreign Minister Zackios were in Washington last month has angered the KNC leadership.

On June 14, Loeak wrote to President Note indicating the KNC’s appreciation of RMI efforts to work together, but at the same time hammering home the KNC point that the RMI request to the U.S. is totally inadequate for Kwajalein and the entire Marshall Islands.

On June 18, Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios replied in a four page letter, saying that KNC’s "second guessing of the RMI’s request for Title Two (Compact) assistance at this stage of the negotiation process is incongruous with your stated desire to work together in a collaborative manner."

Zackios concluded his letter by saying that if KNC’s intent "is to continue to pursue these matters in a deliberately antagonistic and unrealistic approach to the future use of Kwajalein, then I must sadly state that the fundamental positions of the RMI and KNC are at odds."

Zackios commented that the fact that Kwajalein is unique doesn’t mean it is irreplaceable. He said that this situation reminded him of Vieques Island in Puerto Rico, where protests about U.S. use of the island for bombardment led the U.S. to move elsewhere. "Together we can do better for Kwajalein," he said.

Loeak replied in a June 19 letter that Vieques’ situation bears little resemblance to Kwajalein. There, the government of Puerto Rico wanted an end to U.S. use and there was no U.S. base as it was a "live fire" range. "Your reference in this regard is completely misplaced and dramatizes your subservient attitude regarding these negotiations with the U.S.," Loeak said.

"The U.S. is a friend and ally, but our relationship with them is full of inadequacies and injustices," he continued. "We believe that you should not be so intimidated as to be afraid to politely, but firmly advance these issues."

Loeak is angered that the RMI has not put the KNC proposal for nearly $2 billion to the U.S. government.

Despite the increasing tension apparent in the RMI-KNC relationship, there appears to be two issues that they agree on: the U.S. proposal is not satisfactory in its present form, and that any extension be for a set term of continuous years, not an agreement with "options" to renew after a certain number of years.



MAJURO, Marshall Islands (July 5, 2002 – Marshall Islands Journal)---The U.S. government isn’t offering enough funding and the RMI government isn’t asking for enough money in the Compact talks. That’s the view of the Kwajalein Negotiation Commission that was expressed by KNC chairman Senator Chris Loeak in a June 14 letter to President Kessai Note.

He asked the RMI government to extend for one year the negotiations to "give us time to work out a joint position to negotiate a reasonable agreement for the RMI and the KNC."

In a response, Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios said that the RMI did not want to delay the talks, saying that to request a suspension in the negotiations "will only undermine U.S. confidence and bring into question our good faith efforts, which would have severe adverse consequences for the Marshallese people."

Loeak, while noting an improving relationship between the RMI government and the KNC -- "I believe these discussions (between the RMI and KNC) point the way toward a friendly, cooperative and constructive relationship between us" -- made it clear that the KNC does not support either the U.S. or RMI governments’ proposed funding packages for the second Compact period.

"The position of the United States government is flawed and economically insufficient both for the RMI and the KNC," Loeak told Note. On the RMI side, Loeak said, "The RMI simply did not ask for enough with respect to its proposal on Title II and Kwajalein Atoll."

Loeak said that Kwajalein landowners believe that they are entitled to "compensation for use of their land separate from ‘assistance payments’ provided under Title II of the Compact." He said that "the position of the KNC in this regard was not addressed at all in the RMI’s offer to the U.S. and must be a basic element in the discussions between the United States and the RMI."

Loeak listed numerous problems with the U.S. funding offer and the RMI response.

Loeak said that any agreement reached in the next few months between the U.S. and RMI "will be substantially along the terms tabled by the U.S. government in May. We believe these terms are unfavorable to both the RMI and KNC."

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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